http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=57825Golf icon Palmer receives Lone Sailor Award
WASHINGTON — Arnold Palmer, who commanded an "Army" of zealous fans during his illustrious golf career, was honored Tuesday by the Navy.
Palmer, who served three years in the Coast Guard in the early 1950s, received the Lone Sailor Award, presented annually since 1987 by the United States Navy Memorial to Sea Service veterans "who have excelled with distinction in their respective careers while exemplifying the core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment."
The 79-year-old Palmer is pleased to be associated with those character traits. "Those three words are what life is all about, as far as I’m concerned," Palmer said prior to Tuesday night’s awards banquet. "Certainly honor, courage and commitment are things that I would like to think that all young American men and women would be raised up to live by."
Honored was how Palmer felt to be selected to receive the Lone Sailor Award.
"I’m very flattered," Palmer said. "I appreciate what the Coast Guard stands for. It’s something that’s very important to me, and the fact that I had the opportunity and privilege of being a Coast Guardsman."
Also receiving the award Tuesday were A.G. Lafley, Chairman and CEO of Proctor & Gamble; and Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., a member of the Appropriations and Homeland Security committees, currently serving his 16th term.
John McConnell, the recently deceased founder of metal-processing company Worthington Industries, was also honored. McConnell was instrumental in bringing the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.
Past recipients of the award include Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush; former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.); authors Herman Wouk and James A. Michener; actors Tony Curtis, Eddie Albert and Ernest Borgnine; and comedian Jonathan Winters. Sports figures who have received the award include St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Stan Musial, Boston Celtics coach and owner Red Auerbach, and quarterback Roger Staubach, a standout for the Naval Academy and the Dallas Cowboys.
"Our honorees are living examples of how service to country changes lives and helps develop leaders — whether it be in the world of sports, politics, government, the private sector or the arts," said Rear Adm. Richard A. Buchanan, USN (Ret.), President and CEO of the United States Navy Memorial, in a news release. "The common theme they all express is that their public service has made them who they are today and motivates them to continue to give back to our society."
After his service as a Coast Guardsman, Palmer went on to win the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1954. From there, he embarked on one of the most successful careers in golf history. Palmer won 92 times as a pro, including four Masters (1958, 1960, 1962, and 1964), the 1960 U.S. Open and the British Open in 1961 and 1962. He won the Hickok Belt (top professional athlete) and Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year award in 1960, and The Associated Press selected him as its Athlete of the Decade for the 1960s. His rise coincided with the advent of television, which allowed Palmer to bring more exposure and bigger prize money to golf. In 1963, he became the first golfer to collect $1 million in career earnings. His legacy in this area exceeds Palmer’s wildest dreams; last weekend, Vijay Singh pocketed $10 million for winning the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoff.
Off the course, Palmer also was the prototype for today’s most famous golfers, distinguishing himself as an advertising spokesman, businessman, golf course designer, pilot and philanthropist.
Spurring Palmer to victory time and again were his legion of fans, known as "Arnie’s Army." As the name implies, the military played a role in the formation of that phalanx. In 1958, when Palmer won his first Masters title, Augusta National granted free admission to soldiers from Camp Gordon, Ga., (now Fort Gordon), and recruited them to run the scoreboards. Though Palmer’s hard-charging style would endear him to fans worldwide, it was the troops who first latched on to the Coast Guard veteran.
"When I started playing pretty well at Augusta, the first thing that happened was that they came out with signs, and they were up on the scoreboard where everybody could see them. [They said], ‘Hey Arnie, we’re part of your army,’" Palmer said. "And that’s how it started. And then it got growing, and it got pretty serious, more and more, and then other people outside started picking it up. After a couple of years the tournament officials, because it was so serious, decided that the people would not be allowed to carry signs anymore."
Support from the fans buoyed Palmer, but his stint in the Coast Guard helped him prepare for success.
"[In the Coast Guard] I had an opportunity to grow into a man and know what I wanted to do with my life. Service gave me that opportunity, it gave me the time to look back and to see what I could do and of course give me the confidence to do what I was eventually going to do."
Though most servicemembers (and most people in general) won’t go on to match his career, Palmer believes the military is a good training ground for success in all professions.
"I think that if they’re really wise, and use their military training to help them achieve what they want to achieve, it will be forever helpful," Palmer said. "If you’ve been in the military, you can take your time and look at the things that have happened to you while you were serving your country and then you can apply those things to the business world. It will be forever helpful to anyone."
It certainly was of benefit to Palmer, who has maintained close ties to the military throughout his life.
"I have [had a close association], and from all aspects of the military, from the Coast Guard to the Navy, where, [because] I’m a pilot and I fly and, I flew with the Blue Angels — and I am a [honorary] Blue Angel, actually — and of course lot to do with the Navy, a lot of good friends. And of course, being a pilot, again, I flew with the [Air Force] Thunderbirds and have an association and I’m an honorary Thunderbird also. …
"And of course you know my association with the Army," Palmer said with a chuckle.
Arnold Palmer is someone I have admired for years...I did not know he was in the Coast Guard for three years.